Top Ten Tips for Appointing A Contractor

October 29, 2012

So your architect has inspired you with a great design that meets your aspirations and you have raised the capital required to start on site! How do you find a good contractor? Appointing the right contractor has a huge affect on the quality of the completed project, and on the experience of getting there. It is a key decision.

The difference between your well being and misery is bringing in the right contractor for the right price at the right time. It is essential to find, negotiate, appoint and collaborate with one at an early juncture.

Your architect will help you compile a tender list, but you should also  be actively involved. What should you look for? Here are some critical questions that must be answered:

1 References From Previous Clients

Personal recommendation and local reputation count for a lot. Ideally you are looking for a builder who leaves all their clients delighted! If so, they will be doing an excellent job, because building is not easy. You want to know whether the builder has previous clients who are willing to speak to you honestly about their experience of working together. In particular you want to drill down into how the contractor dealt with unforeseen problems successfully?

2 Relevant Experience

Can the contractor demonstrate a command of the relevant issues? What are their strong points? There is no substitute for seeing the quality of a completed project by the same builder. Ask whether the same team that did that project would be involved in yours. Was the project delivered to time and to budget? Was the standard of finishings up to your liking?

3 Size

Horses for courses! Ask about the contract value, and makeup, of their three largest and most recent projects. When tendering ask a minimum of three similarly sized and resourced companies to submit pricing so that you will have a reflection of the true cost for your project.

4 Financial Checks

The cost to a client of the contractor going under when your dream house in partially constructed can be considerable. Do not be afraid to ask for a Banker's Reference, which should give you a reasonable indication of their liquidity, or even a 'conditioned' credit check where in order to get on the tender list each contractor has to prove certain financial criteria (eg 4 star rating and above).

5 Contracts

Have a clear idea of what form of contracting you will use. Do not use the builder's form of contract. The JCT Minor Works or other industry standard is advisable

6 Communication

Regrettably, organisational skills are often not a strong point, particularly for smaller contractors, yet from client's point of view this can have a big impact on your well being. In particular you want to know who is in daily charge of your project who cares enough about doing a good job They must also be able to think ahead and spot problems before they arise, rather than merely responding to them.

Make it clear how you want your updates – daily or weekly, and what do you want to know.

7 Insurance

Depending upon the procurement set up there may be many types of insurances needed. As a minimum ask for a copy of your builders (all risk) insurance certificates.

8 Money

Nail down all the costs in the pre start meeting – leave nothing to chance. Put in a contingency (minimum say 5%) to deal with any unforeseen problems.

Ask your architect to collate visuals or catalogue references with supplier information attached. Be involved in all the decisions relating to any finished products.

Do not pay any deposit; all payments to be in arrears of pre-agreed work stages completed.

Keep a good sum for the final payment to be made only when the works are satisfactorily completed and the council issues the final certificate of satisfactory completion.

9 Site Welfare

Insist on a risk assessment around anything or anybody that is susceptible throughout the project. A little bit of forethought of dogs going missing or broken plant pots is the best way forward.

Also remember the contractors welfare. It is not uncommon for separate portaloo and washing facilities to be located outside the property. This will reduce conflict throughout the project and minimise unnecessary traffic throughout your home but of course may need to be positioned discretely.

At the pre start meeting for alteration work insist any areas of risk to dust, stains etc be completely covered up with a good quality material. This includes bannisters, carpets, doors, kitchen units etc.

For all projects photograph all areas before building work starts and make sure you have a chronological record of how your site or property looked before work started.

10 Your Sanity

Make sure the company you use provide guarantees on the finished product.

Be especially cautious if appointing a friend or an acquaintance; familiarity erodes the control of the employer and can lead to disappointment.



Source: StudioEight_Architecture

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